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Stick your neck out

As our recent survey of cross-party MPs shows, over 90 per cent of backbenchers think financial advisers should be qualified to chartered status.

It was the first poll taken of MPs since the launch of the retail distribution review and showed that those in the corridors of power rank financial advisers seventh in a list of other professions which is topped by doctors and architects.

This survey was just one of many temperature gauge questionnaires the Personal Finance Society will be taking of the industry and stakeholders over the next few months.

Of the estimated 57,000 advisers at work in the UK financial services community, some 23,500 are members of the PFS. We are conducting a survey among our members to ensure that our joint response to the RDR with the Chartered Insurance Institute represents a fair reflection of the industry’s views.

I wonder what level of input we will receive, bearing in mind that the outcome is likely to have the biggest impact on advisers’ business since regulation began? If past consultations are anything to go by, we can expect response levels to the survey to be in the region of 1,500 to 2,000. That equates to some 6 to 8.5 per cent of members but, of course, a much lower proportion of advisers across the industry.

The issue is that the vast majority are likely to remain silent while a small minority make a disproportionate contribution to the background noise.

The RDR is not a process to save IFAs, rather a means to secure for consumers affordable access to sustainable advice. This should ultimately be a project focused on consumer needs. We therefore need to ensure that it is fully appreciated by the FSA that IFAs do have a business model that is professional, sustainable and suitable for that purpose and to do that we need to be able to supply factual rather than just anecdotal evidence.

If the PFS and CII are to act as an effective conduit to transmit the feedback of IFAs to the FSA, we need to be able to relay detailed and informed views.

The opinions that we have been able to elicit so far suggest views are quite polarised. For example, many advisers welcome the prospect of higher levels of qualifications being demanded of the industry. We already know that 7,000 advisers with diplomas are seeking to move up to chartered status but we are also aware that 84 per cent of advisers are only qualified to the basic financial planning certificate level and that many of these are reluctant to raise their game. Some are wholly averse to the idea of having to face further exams.

We have some 45 events around the country planned for the coming months. These include our annual conference in November, regional meetings, seminars, informal groups and more formal assemblies of invited audiences. We will be meeting people face to face as well as communicating via our website which is being updated regularly with interviews from leading figures in the sector.

Many IFAs still have some serious thinking to do on the subject. These issues are not going away. The world is changing and those advisers who believe that life will simply continue in the present way will discover that they have played ostrich for too long. We need to hear your views.

Tim Eadon is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society

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